# 314 – The Ultimate Blot by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
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# 314 – The Ultimate Blot

Helping others to understand Israel - and Israelis to understand others...
  • Joined Sep 2016
  • Published Books 409
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November 2, 2017

Lord Alfred Balfour was PM and then Foreign Minister in the UK parliament. In 1917, 100 years ago, he wrote a famous letter to Lord Rothschild, a leader within the Jewish community in the UK – for transmission to the Zionist Federation.

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The letter was a declaration of the need to establish a homeland for the Jewish people – and to respect the rights of the resident population. (This population was relatively small, and consisted of a majority of Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, plus Bedouins and Jews). The culmination of this declaration was Resolution 181 at the United Nations in 1947, dividing the land between the Jews and the Arabs, creating 2 nations, Israel and Palestine.

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Two problems:

First, in the interim period, the colonial nations (France and Britain) had gone ahead and made a much more de facto decision: the creation of the Trans-Jordan. This piece of geo-political magic came about as a thank-you to the Hashemite people, not even originally from this area, for their support in WW1 against the Turks. (Despite the fact that, even today, tribal culture is still prominent  throughout the Middle East, not much information exists about the protests of the neighbours when Jordan was established).

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Second, and far more ‘publicised’, is the fact that the neighbours were against the establishment of a state for the Jews – and most of them have never given up fighting that democratic UN vote. They say nothing about the crazy new borders around Syria, Lebanon etc., but scream about Israel.

This hypocrisy within the Arab world is a sad blot for them.

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I entitle this letter ‘The Ultimate Blot’, following my reading of today’s paper and then a few minutes of sitting back in my plane seat and thinking…

OK – 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. Important for this part of the World.

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It’s also 22 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, an event that has had enormous repercussions within Israel society.  The divide between the haredi (ultra-religious) and the secular parts of Israeli society was ‘bearable’ until then. In a country of incredible cultural divides (Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Ethiopian, French, Russian, Moroccan, Yemeni, Anglo-Saxon etc. etc.), that divide was par for the course.

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But Rabin’s assassination by a ‘religious right-winger’ caused that gap to deepen – and that gap is now more traumatic. It has become a sad blot on our society. Just as some still blame the Jews for the Crucifixion, so now, the religious for Rabin’s death.

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Depending on one’s definition of a blot, there are billions of them. But my letters focus on Israel. Not really defence of the country, but more an attempt to give ‘you’ a better understanding of what is Israel, and why.

Israel is a blot that just won’t go away. For it is a reminder of what most people want ’swept under the carpet’ . Move on, they say. But it’s difficult to have one without the other.

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Anti-Semitism is another blot that won’t go away. Hey! I know….I grew up hardly aware of (my) Judaism. Yet recently I was in the Czech Republic, in Trutnov (Trautenau), the town where my mother grew up. Her family were born Jews, but, when she was an infant, they converted to Catholicism for whatever reason. Around 40 years later, her parents’ Catholicism did not protect them. They perished in Auschwitz.

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I was in Trutnov with a lawyer, there to confront the director of the local museum. They have archives of property acquired since the early 1900’s. Among the archives, we discovered 2 long-lost paintings belonging to my mother’s family. Both were by the Czech artist, Vladislav Nechleba.

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For years, all we had were b/w photos with my mother’s writing on the back, describing the size and frame. The first was of my mother, aged 4. Cutting that story to ‘short and sweet’, after 1 year of ‘legal battle’, I picked up the painting (was interviewed by Czech TV),and it now hangs warmly in our living room.

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I have seen the 2nd painting – 10 years later – of one of my mother’s aunts. But I was not allowed to take a picture of the original, and the museum refused to hand it over. They would not recognise precedence, and I was no longer able to prove ownership. All witnesses had died.

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There is a 3rd photo of a 3rd painting – of my grandfather…

The museum not only said they do not have this painting (perhaps true), they wrote to me in a style that has to be described as anti-Semitic.

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Cutting this story short, suffice to say that my ‘legal reaction’ is not for personal restitution. Apart from my mother’s portrait, about which I have written a little book (see ‘I am My Portrait’ on ourbox.com), I am not after our property. No great commercial value (like the Bloch-Bauer’s Klimt paintings, made famous in the film ‘Woman in Gold’), and what would I do with them?

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No – they say that everything in their archives belongs to them – to the State. Yet I have proved already that, at least 1 piece of property does not belong to them. And that has set a precedent – lays suspicion on any property acquired during the post-war years. I want this property to be finally, after around 70 years, recorded, digitalised and made available for potential original-owners to see. They may all be dead, or unaware, or even uninterested. But I believe the Czech Republic must be seen to remove this sad blot from their page.

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Refugees and migrants, famine, starvation and disease, mass killing, corruption and sexual harassment…so many blots on our society.

I’d like to think that are many of us who are aware of this, and, in their own little way, try to use their little piece of blotting paper.

Stephen

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